The rise and rise of Ulster bakery with new '¨artisan range

With over 100 years of baking experience, Portadown-based Irwin's Bakery has come a long way since W.D. Irwin and his wife, Ruth, opened for business in a small bakery in Co. Armagh.

Brian and Niall Irwin
Brian and Niall Irwin

“Nowadays, we expect to be able to go into our nearest shop and buy a wide range of bread,’’ said Brian Irwin, chairman of Irwin’s Bakery.

‘‘However, when my great grandfather opened his shop it was a very different story.

“Families were used to baking their own bread, so being able to buy it was a novelty – and it wasn’t long before the business expanded as a result of the demand for freshly baked bread and cakes among the people of Portadown.”

The early days

With shoppers looking for breads with taste, character, provenance and nutritional features, Irwin’s Bakery has launched an Artisan range, which features Irwin’s Sourdough and Irwin’s Seeds & Grains.

‘‘The new products include sourdough bread made to Irwin’s own special recipe blend and a malted loaf with wheat flakes and a blend of crunchy seeds.

‘‘Both breads are innovative – whilst embracing time-honoured traditional baking methods.

“Through our new Artisan range, we are able to showcase our distinctive fermentation and batch bread baking process,” said Brian.

The early days

“Using fermented dough techniques and baked on the ‘sole’ of the oven, the bread produced by Irwin’s Bakery embraces the best of heritage and innovation.”

Perfect for a weekend brunch, satisfying side for a soup, or the star ingredient of a sandwich, the Artisan range is set to become a shopping list staple.

“Since the 1930s when Irwin’s bread was delivered locally, to now when it reaches across Northern Ireland, Great Britain and Ireland every day – it’s impressive to chart the journey of the business.”

“From the launch of our award-winning Nutty Krust in 1961, a product with its roots in traditional baking and a distinctive crust, to our centenary celebrations in 2012, generations of our family have helped transform the business.”

Brian joined the business in 1976, following in the footsteps of his father Kenny, and his brother Niall in 1969. With Niall in the role as master baker following his time at bakery college, and Brian responsible for the commercial side of the business, family remains at the heart of Irwin’s Bakery – with the tradition set to continue through Niall’s son, Ross, who has joined as the fourth generation and general manager of Howell’s, Irwin’s cake division.

“Our ambitions differ little from those of W.D. Irwin.

‘‘We want to deliver freshly baked bread every day – an aim which we have now achieved across NI and beyond by changing and adapting to customer needs.

“Irwin’s bread is at the heart of our family – and for many others across Northern Ireland, it is the taste of home,” concludes Brian.

The Irwin’s Bakery Artisan range, which includes Irwin’s Sourdough (RRP £1.25- £1.50) and Irwin’s Seeds & Grains (RRP: £1.25- £1.50), is now available across NI in Tesco, Dunnes, Food Force Ireland, Mace, Nisa Spar, SuperValu 
and Sainsbury’s.